Why Church?: A Basic Introduction, By Scott W. Sunquist
Why Church?
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Published: July 09, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5238
  • ISBN: 9780830852383

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  • 2020 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year ("Also Recommended," Church)

Is a church just something we create to serve our purposes or to maintain old traditions? Or is it something more vital, more meaningful, and more powerful?

This can be hard to believe when we look at what happens in any one congregation or denomination. Certainly not all churches act like Jesus in the world, and many individual churches in the West are dying. When it's so easy to be confused, frustrated, or simply apathetic about the church, how should we understand its purpose today?

In this appealing introduction to the nature of the local church, set in the context of Christian history and global diversity, historian and missionary Scott Sunquist shows us the church in motion. Why Church? clarifies the two primary purposes of the church—worship and witness—and unpacks what the church is (and ought to be) using five movements of worship:

  • come together
  • stand to praise God
  • kneel to confess
  • sit to listen to the Word of God
  • go out into the world

Packed with stories and insights from experiences in churches around the world, this book explores cultural contextualization, the meaning of conversion, worship in both personal and communal aspects, and how mission combines telling the good news with being good news as a community.

From Fuller Theological Seminary's renowned church-planting program, this primer is well suited to leaders and their core teams to read together and share with new attenders as they catch the spirit of the dynamic gathering that is the local church.

"In a post-Christendom era, a primer on what the church is all about is sorely needed. Sunquist offers us a book that is fluent and fresh, combining profundity and down-to-earth simplicity, with healthy doses of humor and no-nonsense realism. After reading it, you are very likely to agree with him when he writes: 'the church is really one of God's best ideas.'"

Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Professor of Theology, Duke University

"Rising generations who wonder about the church's significance today will find Why Church? a compelling and timely book. Scott Sunquist masterfully weaves together clear theological claims with his own experiences along with beautiful illustrations of the global church. Taking on the real challenges we face to live like one body, this book will heighten your imagination by breaking down predominant conceptions of the church as a sterile religious institution. Sunquist increased my curiosity to once again examine the movement from worship to witness as well as the critical nature of our shared Christian identity. As you read, you will experience being invited to come and kneel with communities who are on the go."

Sharon Galgay Ketcham, author of Reciprocal Church, professor of theology and ministry at Gordon College, MA

"In this deceptively profound book, Scott Sunquist writes, 'the church was Jesus' idea.' Local congregations have two grand purposes: to worship and do mission. Utilizing two millennia of church life and contemporary stories from around the world, he weaves a wonderful tapestry of biblical teaching and personal illustration. Only a personally pious and missional historian could write such a book."

Alec Hill, president emeritus, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

"In Why Church?, Scott Sunquist brings clarity and power to who and what we are as the church of Jesus. As a seminary colleague, I appreciate the way Sunquist brings a wealth of history and research to our current context. As a pastor, I am strengthened by the way he investigates contemporary expressions of the church around the world and then focuses on what it means for us to help our folks deeply engage the two biblical reasons for the church (worship and mission). As a friend, I am grateful that Scott has given the church an essential reminder of our call as believers. Every pastor, staff person, and leader needs to use Why Church? as a resource for taking us to new heights as leaders of the Lord's household."

Chap Clark, pastor, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, formerly vice provost, Fuller Theological Seminary

"In a day and age when people say, 'I love Jesus, but I can do without the church,' Scott Sunquist reveals the error of such thinking. You cannot get Jesus without his church. It is his body and bride. With the mind of a scholar, the passion of a missionary, and the heart of a pastor, Scott provides both a correction and a call to return to the sense and sensibilities of the initial followers of Jesus who turned the world upside down."

Claude Alexander, bishop, The Park Church, Charlotte, NC


Foreword by Richard J. Mouw

1. Church: Only Two Purposes
2. How Did We Get Here? From the Jesus Movement, to Christendom, to Post-Christendom
3. Come
4. Stand
5. Kneel
6. Sit
7. Go
8. Healthy Body Movement
Epilogue: What We Did Not Talk About

Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Scott W. Sunquist

Scott W. Sunquist (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Previously, he was a professor and dean of the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, taught missiology and Christian history at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and lectured at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Sunquist is the author of Explorations in Asian Christianity, Understanding Christian Mission, and The Unexpected Christian Century, and a coauthor of A History of the World Christian Movement.